Sanderstead Singers - Fred Irvine - Choirmaster

Fred Irvine has been choirmaster of Sanderstead Singers since the choir was formed in 1991. A Chartered Accountant by profession, he had little formal musical training but has benefitted hugely from association with a number of fine choirmasters over many years.

As a chorister at St. Cuthbert’s Church in Gateshead, he was initially inspired by Fred Peacock (who has recently celebrated 50 years as Director of Music at St. George’s, Jesmond in Newcastle). He took over as organist and choirmaster at St. Cuthbert’s in autumn 1963 with an all-male SATB choir.

He moved to the neighbouring church of St. Helen’s, Low Fell in 1972 – his replacement at St. Cuthbert’s being a certain Margaret Howarth (later Irvine), but that’s another story.

He moved south to Surrey in 1978, where he had a short spell at St. Edmund’s, Riddlesdown between 1979 and 1981. He then followed in the footsteps of another major musical influence, Rod Spencer, by becoming Director of Music at All Saints’ Sanderstead in October 1986. Much wise guidance followed from the incomparable Martin How.

He contunued at All Saints’, and with the cathedral choir camp tradition established by Rod Spencer, by arranged choir camps at St. Edmundsbury (1987), Worcester (1988), Norwich (1989) and Ely (1990).

He resigned from All Saints’ in 1990, but was called back, to lead the newly formed Sanderstead Singers at Salisbury in August 1991. This was the first choir camp for Sanderstead Singers. Invaluable experience and guidance then came from singing with the RSCM Nicholson Singers under Michael Fleming and with RSCM Southern Cathedral Girls under Bob Soper.

His main musical pride and joy has been his long association with St. Mary’s Church, Sanderstead where he became Director of Music in September 1991. Over the years, the choir of St. Mary’s has provided a very significant number of Sanderstead Singers members.

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